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Henricksen: State’s best players opening eyes nationally

The two “live” recruiting periods in April for college coaches to evaluate talent have come and gone. At the midway point of the always busy spring evaluation period, one junior has seriously elevated his stock, while the top of each class in Illinois has been solidified.

Here is a rundown of that rising junior prospect and how the top of each class shapes up three weeks into the spring AAU cycle.

Stock for Stevenson’s Justin Smith soars

The size, the basketball body, the high-level athleticism and super-sized potential were all there for Justin Smith of Stevenson. The confidence, assertiveness and consistency, however, was a work in progress while he slowly but surely grows into his game.

After three weeks on the club basketball scene, including two “live” periods on the EYBL circuit, no high-profile player in Illinois has seen his stock rise more in the junior class than Smith.

A fixture among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the Class of 2017 in Illinois, Smith has been on the outside looking in of top 100 national rankings. That’s about to change.

And after being a prime Big Ten target –– Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana have all offered –– the recruitment of Smith is about to expand. The reigning national champions, Villanova, extended an offer last week, with plenty of other high-profile programs set to get involved.

Smith continues to showcase his terrific athleticism with above-the-rim play while also becoming a more consistent perimeter threat from beyond the arc. Most importantly, Smith is imposing his will for larger chunks of minutes each game.


➤ Jordan Goodwin clearly state’s best in 2017

The Jordan Goodwin Fan Club is adding members while his stock is rising among national evaluators and college coaches.

Goodwin, a junior at Belleville Althoff, has been the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top-ranked prospect in Illinois since Jeremiah Tilmon left the state and enrolled at La Lumiere in Indiana last fall.

Over the past eight months there has been debate among many as to who the best player and prospect is in the Class of 2017, with some placing Da’Monte Williams of Peoria Manual at the top and others having Nojel Eastern of Evanston at No. 1. There shouldn’t have been and there isn’t any question or debate now. It’s time to quit picking apart his game and appreciate the special type and brand of basketball he plays.

Goodwin was No. 1 last fall, throughout his junior season and continues to be as he was absolutely terrific this past weekend in EYBL action while playing with the St. Louis Eagles. He constantly showed his rugged, impassioned playmaking ability.

Now he’s about to see his rep rise nationally. Goodwin is a top 100 talent already, but he’s bound to shoot himself into the top 50. For all that he brings to the table, there really isn’t a program in the country he couldn’t help. Some big dogs are now involved, with both Texas and UConn offering the 6-3 guard after watching him this spring.

Talented tandem atop Class of 2018

Tim Finke of Champaign Central, the younger brother of current Illinois player Michael Finke, has established himself nationally in the Class of 2018. The 6-6 sophomore is already ranked among the top prospects in the country in his class. Scout.com has Finke ranked No. 22 in the class, while he checks in as rivals.com’s No. 37 ranked prospect.

Finke has more than held his own and looked the part of a high-major prospect while playing up an age group with the St. Louis Eagles this spring. He’s poised, tough and makes shots with the ability to stretch a defense and space the floor with his three-point shooting.

At the present time, both Finke and Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the state’s Class of 2018. Dosunmu’s play this spring with the Mac Irvin Fire will certainly vault the talented 6-3 point guard into the national rankings.

Francis Okoro best Illinois prospect in 2019

The imposing 6-10 Francis Okoro of Normal West is a physical specimen. Blessed with tremendous size, along with natural brute strength and athleticism, Okoro is the state’s best prospect in the Class of 2019.

While playing up an age group with the St. Louis Eagles, Okoro showcased his ability to run the floor with very good speed and hustled at all times. Those attributes, combined with his size and strength, make Okoro an eye-opening prospect, even as he continues to diversify his game and develop ideal fundamentals.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport